‘Win’ Earns Grin from City Manager

How long did it take the school district, city and housing authority to reach their final “win, win, win” approval of the two-year planning swap deal? Three weeks’ time from the first public notification! It was accomplished in secrecy, with them stating that closed sessions were allowed by the Brown Act. As the last elected official’s approval vote was stated, City Manager John Russo smiled a Cheshire cat grin. He had “won.”

It all started with swimmers. Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) got $1.9 million with the city giving $750,000 for the Encinal pool renovation and $50,000 for legal fees. I think I’ll take a dip when it’s completed.

AUSD’s tidelands 17-acre holdings went to the city. The property has restrictions on how it’s used. It can’t be sold to a private party.

This year the city compensated AUSD about $27,000. What’s it worth in the future? Perhaps Tim Lewis Communities who bought the nearby Del Monte Warehouse could give us an estimate.

AUSD exchanged with the City 12 acres in a commercial zone for 20 acres both at Alameda Point. About 10 acres for a future school and another 10 that includes the historic Bachelor Officer’s Quarters.

The city will maintain it for 10 years. Will AUSD, because it’s a public entity, eventually sell it to a developer avoiding historic building preservation protection? Or will this building be used to develop the very low income housing covenant of 30 single occupancy rental units for seniors? Probably not for, as they have stated, they are not in the housing business.

AUSD gave $4.6 million to the Housing Authority (HA) which AUSD originally received for low-income housing for its employees. It can only be used for affordable housing. HA gave $1.2 million back to AUSD for the .83 acre Island High site in the Wedge neighborhood.

The HA board, who are volunteers not elected, engaged in dialogue with some residents of the “Wedge” hearing our concerns for:
n Low-density housing using the R-4 development standards. Do not bypass any Alameda density laws. People moved to our neighborhood for the school. Avoid the overcrowding that high density will cause at our neighborhood school forcing our children to go to an elementary and middle school across town. Senior housing would avoid this huge concern.

n A mix of affordable income levels. We have many very low income rentals in our neighborhood. I provide one.

n Rental and owner-occupied homes, which will foster pride of ownership.

n Onsite parking: We have little parking for our current residents.  Density also creates more congested traffic.

n Green space: The future residents and neighbors need the rest and relaxation green will bring. We had tried to get a community garden on this site.

n Design elements that blend with our historic homes. Some examples include height limits not higher than two stories and lighting shielded from homes.

n Proper oversight, which will ensure care and safety.

When will we have a “win”? This deal was concluded without transparency or resident involvement. Would we have gotten in the way?

HA stated that it will perform studies, engage neighbors and submit to public hearings before construction begins on the old Island High site. HA must involve us in the planning of this property for future residents, current residents and for our children. We all need a good quality of life that includes green space and diversity, not density.

Patsy Paul lives in the Wedge, a neighborhood bounded by Park Street, Tilden Way and the Estuary.